When visitors descend on Lexington in late October for the Breeders' Cup, they will be here primarily for the finest Thoroughbreds in the world. But they should stick around after the races to see what else the commonwealth has to offer. And there's plenty.
Here are 10 places to go pre- or post-Breeders' Cup or any other time of year:
1. Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Home, Georgetown: At this retirement home, residents can be grumpy and out of sorts on occasion, but it's nothing that offering them a carrot or a sugar cube won't cure.
Old Friends, situated on more than 100 acres of rolling farmland in Scott County, is a safe haven where Thoroughbreds may live out their lives once their racing and breeding careers are over. Michael Blowen and his wife, Diane White, former Boston Globe columnists and passionate horse lovers, have given sanctuary to Thoroughbreds whose careers were legendary and others whose careers were less than stellar. It doesn't matter to Blowen and White, who think all Thoroughbreds deserve a happy home. Oldfriendsequine.org.
2. Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea: About a 40-minute drive from Lexington, Berea has long been considered Kentucky's Arts & Crafts Capital. While there are a number of galleries, studios and shops in College Square and Old Town Artists' Village, visitors won't want to miss the Kentucky Artisan Center, just off Interstate 75 at exit 77.
Within the center's 25,000 square feet of space can be found superbly crafted glasswork, woodwork, jewelry, woven products and artwork. On Saturdays, you can meet the artists, and watch vases being thrown and glass being blown while listening to the sweet notes of a dulcimer or the click-clack of a weaver's shuttle. Kentuckyartisancenter.ky.gov.
3. Irish Acres Antiques, Nonesuch, Woodford County: Just 35 minutes from Lexington, in the heart of Thoroughbred country, visitors will find a rehabbed 1930s schoolhouse that has been turned into an antiques emporium offering everything from high-end French Provincial to Appalachian folk. Irish Acres Antiques might be at the end of some pretty winding Bluegrass roads, but it's well worth plugging in the GPS for.
Whether you're in the market for a French Empire four-poster bed or a set of Wedgewood china, an Art Deco cut glass cocktail shaker or a stylish beaded handbag, you'll find it here. After you finish shopping, be sure you've made lunch reservations at the cellar Glitz Restaurant, where the décor resembles that of a movie set. Irishacresgallery.com.
4. Bourbon distilleries (Lexington side of the Bourbon Trail): If there's one thing that goes well with bloodstock, it's bourbon. There are plenty of places for Breeders' Cup visitors to sample it, with four distilleries — Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Buffalo Trace — within 40 minutes of Lexington. All have made significant improvements in their touring and tasting areas to accommodate an influx of visitors.
Should you want to do your sipping right here in Lexington, check out Alltech's Town Branch Distillery on Cross Street, or Barrel House Distilling Co. in the Distillery District. If you're brave enough, you can try Devil John Moonshine, named for a legendary Kentuckian who managed to be a lawman and a moonshiner. Kybourbontrail.com.
5. Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, Bardston: About an hour from Lexington, Bardstown generally is considered Kentucky's Bourbon Capital. Should you want to venture further afield and visit distilleries such as Maker's Mark, Jim Beam and Heaven Hill, save time for a visit to the eminently entertaining Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Spalding Hall, which traces the evolution of Kentucky's (and America's) native spirit from the colonial-era Whiskey Rebellion to today's thriving industry.
One of the most humorous exhibits is the mural showing U.S. presidents holding their favorite libations. Which one chose bourbon? That would be Harry Truman, who was partial to bourbon and branch water. Whiskeymuseum.com.
6. Lexington area wineries: Just in case you get enough bourbon, you might want to visit one of the area wineries. A little known fact is that Kentucky was the first state to plant a commercial vineyard — in Jessamine County in the 18th century. Now, you can visit the exact site at the recently opened First Vineyard in Nicholasville and enjoy a taste of history with your wine. Firstvineyard.net.
Should you wish to try other native grapes, area wineries open for your tasting pleasure include Talon Winery (Talonwine.com) and Jean Farris Winery (Jeanfarris.com) in Lexington, Equus Run Vineyards (Equusrunvineyards.com) in Woodford County and Chrisman Mill Vineyards (Chrismanmill.com) in Jessamine County.
7. Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington: If you're here for the horses, you can't leave without paying a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park, the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to the horse. Thoroughbreds take pride of place — from the bronze statue of Man o' War who greets visitors at the park entrance to the flesh and blood horses who live in the Hall of Champions - but the park honors all breeds. Breeds Barn Show presents costumed riders showing horses ranging from the Spanish Paso Fino to the English Shire. Kyhorsepark.com.
Museum lovers won't want to miss the Smithsonian-affiliated International Museum of the Horse (Imh.org) and American Saddlebred Museum (Asbmuseum.org).
8. Horse farm tours: It's safe to say that almost everyone who visits the Bluegrass wants to see our magnificent Thoroughbreds as up-close as possible. Now they can. During Breeders' Cup Festival Week, visitors may sign up for a series of special experiences Oct. 25 to 28 that will take them behind the scenes at a number of area farms, including Winstar, Lane's End, Mill Ridge, Claiborne, Adena Springs, Spendthrift and Pin Oak. In addition, they'll have a chance to visit renowned veterinary clinics Rood & Riddle and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, as well as Hallway Feeds which provides Thoroughbreds with their breakfast of champions. Breederscupfestival.com/horse-farm-tours-2.
9. Louisville's Museum Row: Whether your interest is baseball or boxing, mummies or military weapons, or the arts and crafts that Kentucky has become justly famous for, Louisville's Museum Row on Main, with 10 attractions within four blocks, including the Muhammad Ali Center, has what you're looking for.
It's pretty hard to miss the five-story tall baseball bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum. For hard core baseball fans, this is the Hermitage of home runs, the Louvre of line drives and the Smithsonian of swings.
Even those who dreaded their high school science class will love the Kentucky Science Center, whos permanent exhibits include The World Around Us, The World Within Us and World We Create.
The Science Center sits between the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (known for handmade quilts, handcrafted furniture and hand-blown glass) and Frazier History Museum (known for ... well, history.) From now through May check out The Lewis and Clark Experience. Museumrowonmain.com.
10. Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville: While in the River City, plan a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum just outside Gate 1 at Churchill Downs. With more than two floors of interactive exhibits, visitors immerse themselves in the "Sport of Kings." Take a guided walking tour of Churchill's barns and backside or a private tour of Millionaires' Row. Watch past Derby races with the Derby Time Machine or let the kids experience being a jockey at the Riders Up exhibit. Derbymuseum.org.